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Young Marine provides an inspiring tale of service in a dark time

The binds — political, cultural, economic — that tie America together are fraying, rapidly. 

As we watch cities erupt in flames, looters bash windows and steal with impunity, authorities struggle to contain the chaos, it seems our young are most prominent at snipping at those binds — ostensibly demonstrating for justice for George Floyd, the black Minneapolis man who died in police custody, but many also using that incident to lash out in violence and rejecting our nation’s unique history and what it has stood for over the past 244 years.

In fact, publicly supporting that tradition and history by, say, displaying the flag, can get your head bashed in, as some counterprotesters discovered during the recent unrest, or invite other troubles with the woke mob, as NFL superstar Drew Brees found out as he was forced to apologize for saying he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.”

But perhaps we should hope that this is simply the loud radical fringe, whose influence is felt mostly on social media, and that most young Americans are like Gabriel Mendez Ramirez.

Ramirez, of Oceanside, California, weighed 365 pounds when he was a high school freshman, according to Military.com. Classmates teased him as “Meatball.”

Ramirez had wanted to become a Marine before coming to school. But toward the end of his sophomore year, Staff Sgt. Anna Rodrigues, a Marine recruiter, visited his school. After meeting her, Ramirez decided on his plan. 

“She looked at me, not at my weight,” Ramirez recalled. “She told me ‘It’s all up to you if you want it,’ and from there I got her card.”

The other military branches told him his weight would prevent him from serving. But, he recalled, Rodrigues kept pushing and encouraging him.

Ramirez, who came from a single-parent home, recalled that the sergeant called or texted him every day to check on him. While he sometimes wavered, Rodrigues helped him overcome his doubts.

“She showed up at my house one day out of the blue,” said Ramirez. “She really put me in check that day. She told me to stop doubting myself and just put my mind to what I want to accomplish. I was the only one that could make this happen for me. No one could do it for me.”

And so he did.

On June 1, Ramirez shipped out for boot camp at the U.S. Marine Corps basic training base in San Diego, having shed 186 pounds in order to meet the service’s weight requirement. He seeks to become an infantryman.

Rodrigues told Military.com, “I’m honestly really impressed with Gabriel and how far he’s come. And if I would have been that person to shut him down, who knows where Gabriel would be right now. He’s proving all those people wrong who doubted him.”

Indeed. Ramirez’s story is a testament to his determination and will, but also to his recruiter’s faith in the human spirit.

We could use more stories like this about our young folks who aspire to make a positive mark on behalf of our country, and adults who inspire them.

PHOTO: U.S. Marine Corps photo/Bernadette Plouffe

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